Canadiens' Halak solid in return to net, forces Caps to Game 6

WASHINGTON -- His face flushed, his gray tie slightly askew, Bruce Boudreau let out a loud sigh, then began angrily assessing the various reasons his Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals are still locked in a first-round series against the barely-made-the-playoffs Montreal Canadiens.

A lack of effort from a handful of players.

A suddenly inept power play, 1-for-24 in the postseason.

Terrific goaltending by Montreal's Jaroslav Halak and a pair of early goals by the Canadiens in Friday night's Game 5.

Halak made 37 saves in his return to the net, Mike Cammalleri and Travis Moen scored on two of Montreal's first five shots, and the eighth-seeded Canadiens beat Alex Ovechkin's Capitals 2-1 to extend their Eastern Conference matchup.

"We let it slip away. We have Game 5 in our building, and we play [terribly] the first 10 minutes, and the game's over," Boudreau said. "We're not getting 20 guys playing. We're getting 13 and 14 guys every night, rather than everybody coming to play. Tonight we had five or six passengers again."

The Capitals could have closed it out at home, but instead they will take a 3-2 series lead into Game 6 at Montreal on Monday.

"I liked [our] hunger. I liked [our] desperation," Cammalleri said. "It felt like we were going to make sure we were going home to play another one."

They sure are, thanks in large measure to the key call made by Canadiens coach Jacques Martin to go back to Halak -- benching Carey Price, who took over in goal during Game 3 and started Game 4.

"I'm happy he gave me the confidence," Halak said.

The move worked against the high-flying, NHL-leading offense of the Capitals, limiting them to two-time MVP Ovechkin's second-period goal and helping silence a standing-room-only crowd of 18,377 for stretches.

Also affecting the mood of the spectators: Cammalleri put Montreal ahead 1-0 only 1 1/2 minutes into the game -- and on its third shot -- by scoring against goalie Semyon Varlamov off assists from Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec. And at 7:01, two shots later, it was 2-0 on Moen's backhander.

"Huge for us," Cammalleri said. "Two quick goals gives us the faith, gives us the belief, maybe puts a little doubt in their minds."

Lamented Ovechkin: "We can't start the game like this."

Yet his team already has done this sort of thing in this series. Game 2, also in Washington, began with Montreal scoring on each of its first two shots, prompting Boudreau to yank Jose Theodore and insert Varlamov.

Montreal led 4-1 in the second period of that game before Washington turned things around, outscoring the Canadiens 15-5 from there until the end of Game 4, seemingly wresting control of the series.

Halak changed things, however, even without the help of defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who did such a good job of shadowing Ovechkin in Game 1 but sat out Game 4 and didn't make the trip to Washington for Game 5 because of a virus.

Halak was particularly impressive in the first and third periods. Early, he stuffed Alexander Semin on consecutive shots from close range, then made another reflex stop on Boyd Gordon.

"We just couldn't score against him," Varlamov said through an interpreter.

The Capitals got to Halak early in the second, pulling within 2-1 at 3:52, when Ovechkin maneuvered his way through a scrum in front of the net to poke in a rebound of rookie defenseman John Carlson's slap shot.

It was Ovechkin's fifth goal of the series, and he celebrated in his typically exuberant manner, throwing his arms out wide and nodding his head.

Halak then went back to being unbeatable. He sprawled to deflect a shot from near a post by Eric Fehr during a third-period power play. The Capitals led the NHL in power-play percentage, but they've been stymied throughout this series, going 0-for-5 Friday. The Capitals have scored twice as many short-handed goals (two) as they had scored with an extra skater.

Boudreau said he'd consider personnel changes -- and his players wouldn't be surprised.

"I would expect ... there's going to be some shake-up in the power play," forward Mike Knuble said, "and that's all right."

Later in the third, Halak blocked another nearby attempt from Tomas Fleischmann. After yet one more nice play by Halak, smothering the puck with three Capitals bearing down on him, Ovechkin rolled his head back and looked up to the rafters.

While Ovechkin and linemate Nicklas Backstrom both have nine points in the series, other Capitals stars are not producing, including Semin, who scored 40 goals in the regular season but has zero in his past 12 postseason games.

Asked what he thought of Semin's performance Friday, Boudreau replied with a question: "How many goals and assists did he have?"

The answer, of course, was zero.

"But he did put in a better effort, I thought, than he's put in the three or four previous games," Boudreau said. "But still, if we don't get him scoring, then it's too easy to check certain guys. He's just got to come through."

In a similar vein, Boudreau did not shower Halak with overwhelming praise, choosing to point to his forwards' lack of execution.

Halak, Boudreau said, "played very good, there's no doubt. But, I mean, we missed some really good looks."

Game notes
After spectators in Montreal booed the U.S. national anthem before Game 3, a few jeers were heard at the outset of the Canadian national anthem Friday, but they were quickly drowned out by applause. ... The start of the second period was delayed for about 10 minutes because of a problem with an overhead goal camera.